Need Professional Help... (what to buy) - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 01:29 AM Thread Starter
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Question Need Professional Help... (what to buy)

I am in the market for a "new to me" car. I have decided that car needs to be a Subaru Outback. However, trying to figure out which year to look for may have me in need of a different type of professional help. So, with getting conflicting information on my searches I thought I would ask the "Professionals" here. Below is a run-down of what I have been looking at.

I am looking for something under $9K. I would really like a sunroof as well so that limits the trim to at least the Limited version. I am also looking for fuel efficiency since I drive about 50 miles a day. For that reason I am looking at the 2.5i H4 models. I hear these engines last a long time so I am okay with higher mileage (<150K) but would plan to drive at least 150K - 200K before the next upgrade.

From looking around the internet, I thought the 2009 had solved the head gasket issue so I was focused on that model year. I have been staying away from anything new for cost reasons and that I didn't want to get into the early years of a CVT (though I like the fuel savings). I have since figured out that this isn't exactly true with the 2009 and they have the same EJ253 engine that is in everything from '03 to '09. However, thanks to this site I know know that the '09 is the end of a model run (Gen 3) which should make it a little more reliable.

Here is my debate: I have found a '09 with 135K miles on it for $8.5K - $9K. This is at the top of my range. There are also a few '05 models with around 130K miles around $5.5K - $6k which look well maintained. I was assuming that with 130K miles on an '05 I should probably expect to need a head gasket in the next year or two. I also assumed that with the '09 I would not. I am now thinking this is wrong and I have the same risk of needing a head gasket on both. What do you think?

Outside of creature features such as steering wheel controls and the like, are there other reliability / longevity reasons to spend the extra for the newer car? Do I gain $3K of benefits from a four year newer car? Oh, I guess the '09 do all come with VDC standard, which is nice. What else do I need to know? Also, is there a mid Gen 3 model year I should be looking at instead?

I really don't like car shopping and tend to drive my cars till they fall apart, or snuggle really close to a deer. I drove a '91 Saturn SL2 for almost 20 years with over 400K miles. I would love to do the same with this Outback.

Thanks you all for your wisdom, advice, recommendations, jokes or even snide comments. They are greatly appreciated.

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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 08:39 AM
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Head gaskets are still a serious factor in all of the 2005-2009 cars. Used dealer lots work like filters- people trade in problematic cars and keep the good ones. Thus, you can improve your chances of getting a good one by buying via private sale.

The economy crashed in '08 and car model years are advanced ahead of the real calendar. So there aren't a lot of 2008 models on the street and many fewer 2009s. That makes them harder to find, yet they really aren't all that different from the 2007. Most of the changes are smaller stuff like the stereo. cars101.com has full detail.

A visual inspection by a mechanic is enough to tell you if the car already has head gasket leaks, but no practical test can tell you if you're going to have one in the future. Some of them don't ever leak. If the engine was re-gasketed with the multilayer steel turbo-style gaskets, it probably won't ever leak again.

Make sure it's been kept up in other departments: timing belt, battery, tires, plugs etc.

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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 09:00 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks rasterman, As for checking on the timing belts and other wear items, that is exactly what I am doing. I plan on having the car inspected before I buy for the purpose of identifying an existing gasket issue. I know there is no way to predict the future. It is good to know that there are better replacements out there that mean a new gasket "may" be a one time occurrence if it is needed at some point.

I also agree with you recommendation for a private sale. The problem is, here in Iowa I can't find one. I have been having to look in a 200 mile radius just to find them at dealers. Sounds like the '07 may be a little better than the '05 if I can find them and not have to pay the premium for the harder to find '09.

I initially started looking at the '09 because of Consumer Reports. For whatever reason they really like the '09 but really don't like anything before it. That led me to believe they "solved" something in that year. Maybe this is just because of the added VDC? Anyway... Oh how I love buying cars!!!
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 09:18 AM
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There is no way to predict a HG leak. It will or it will not. Budget for it, look for fluid leaks, but they are not a major factory when looking except for planning.

You can compare the specs per years at www.cars.101.com/outback.html

Have you tried using the Google search bar at the top of the forum?

2003 Outback 2.5 wagon: "Kaylee". 161,000 and counting.
More rust than I care to think about. And leaking head gaskets. And electrical gremlins. Still flyin'.

2002 L.L. Bean Limited 3.0 Outback wagon: "Mal". 110,000 and counting.
Plenty of battle scars and fixing up the previous owner's neglect.
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 10:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilD41 View Post
Do I gain $3K of benefits from a four year newer car?
In a rust prone area, definitely. have to compare specific vehicles of course, but areas that see rust have higher maintenance costs with exhausts, brakes, suspension, and body components.

All things being equal (rust), then no not much difference, they're basically the same vehicle as far as 200,000 miles of future ownership goes.

Some 2005's have some catalytic converter recall or exhaust issues or ECU reprogramming. I doubt that matters 10 years later but might be worth a look to know what that's about.

I would expand your market as far as you can to get the best car - private sale or avoid rust.

H6 OBW VDC, H6 OB Sedan, Tribeca, Lifted XT6
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 03:18 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys (and possibly gals),

That is making me feel a little better about the older cars. I have been looking as far as 300 miles from my location and am not sure I could go further even if I found one. I now know to look at the rear end for rust. I would call Iowa somewhat rust prone. The rear is not a location I would have thought about checking. I will spend some time around the forums looking for other "gotchas" in the Gen 3 Outback to hopefully start my first Subaru ownership out on the right foot.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-12-2017, 12:48 PM Thread Starter
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So, anyone want to chime in on my deliberation? Two cars with the same Limited trim and miles at 125K. One Newport Blue Pearl one Harvest Gold Metallic. Both seem to be in good condition, no leaking gaskets yet and have had all the needed services including timing belt and water pump. The blue is a 2008 for $7.5K The gold is a 2009 for $9K.

Which do you buy?
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-12-2017, 12:58 PM
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Toss-up. I'd be inclined to buy the 2009 just because it's newer, but if the 2008 has the same number of miles and the same level of creature comforts, I might just pick that one ... and set the $1,500 difference aside to help pay for the eventuality of head-gasket problems.


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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-12-2017, 01:02 PM
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Condition, age and sellers history. Call a Subaru dealer during quiet hours have them look at the vin history. I started doing this a few yrs ago. Between carfax, dealer looking at their vin history and sellers story I've bought a few used cars with great results. All private sale never buy used from a dealer as Rasterman pointed out.
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 01-12-2017, 01:20 PM
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having VDC is a lot better then those without.

edit:

and I would still invest in snow tires. AWD or front wheel drive, snow tires make it go/stop and save your life



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